Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tainan City

Tainan City


Tainan City

Taiwan has many shocking surprises but nothing prepared me for what I was about to see one morning at the day market.

I was going on a little shopping spree when on my way to a shopping mall I noticed a large market I hadn't been to before. I parked my bike and wandered through.

Laid out on long wooden benches under colorful awnings was the usual junk - cheap clothing, trinkets, jewelry, polyester lingerie, shoes, toys from Korea, clocks, radios and dvd players. At other tables were fruits and vegetables and candies, boxed chocolates and homemade sweets. As I elbowed my way through, people were shouting and pushing and haggling over prices as they lined up to pay for their goods. Children chased each other up and down the aisles as their parents and grandparents sat on overturned crates around plastic tables slurping up their lunch of noodles and stinky tofu.

Vans were parked in the lot behind the market with goods stacked on boxes outside their open doors. Hawkers stood screeching into microphones as they touted their goods and I covered my ears from the cacaphony. A few advertising videos were playing and people seemed to be crowding around to watch one or two of them. With my hands still held over my ears to block out the unbearable noise, I walked over.

One video was a cooking show demonstrating how to make monkey brain soup. It showed a monkey’s brain being meticulously sawed in half, processed, and then served to diners who were only to eager to slurp up the mess. I felt a little nauseous so I moved on to another video which showed bloody bear claws being lauded by some doctor for their curative powers. I couldn’t look anymore, I felt sick. Do they really believe all this crap?

I looked at the stacks of dead seahorses and furry dried paws laid out neatly on a long table and shook my head. I was going to leave when I saw a large crowd of old men gathered around a white van parked at the end of the alley. They were all staring at a small television set set up on a box so I pushed in amongst the men to see what it was they were watching. I peered at the grainy screen to try and make out the shapes, but it took me a while before I understood what it was. And then I squinted and blinked again because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In grainy black and white I saw the image of a young woman squatting and taking a pee. Then she stood up and pulled up her pants and walked out of a bathroom. What washroom is this? Is this for real? Then I wondered if I'd been in that bathroom.

One woman after another entered the same cubicle and went to the bathroom, not knowing that they were being videotaped. Who filmed this stuff? I thought that the hawker that owned the video was probably selling hidden cameras, but no, the video was just to get everyone’s attention because he was only selling cheap dishes and kitchen utensils. I glanced up at the old buggers staring at the lurid video, their mouths hanging open with their hands twisted in their pockets. Some of them turned away, uncomfortable with my stare.

I didn’t get it. This was a public marketplace with young children and their grandmothers milling about, not some dingy back room in a porn video shop. I lingered for a while longer to watch the old men as they watched the video, before I shook my head and walked away.

So for all those gals out there in cities all over the world - a warning: Have a tinkle before you leave home to go shopping because you never know where there's a hidden camera!